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Putting pharmacy technicians’ skills to the test

October 17, 2018
How Lauren Carse discovered a weakness, developed a solution, and submitted her innovation in her annual implementation record.

Lauren Carse has been a pharmacy technician for four years, all spent at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre Inpatient Pharmacy. Whenever the pharmacy hires a new pharmacy technician, they go through five days of training in manufacturing. It’s Lauren’s responsibility to train the newcomers, but lately she had spotted a weakness in the system.

“I was noticing that everyone was able to follow a recipe without any issues, but if I asked them to prove or check the recipe, they seemed lost,” said Lauren. “To test new hires, I would print off a recipe, white out the concentration or the number of tablets required, and ask them to calculate it using pharmaceutical math. In the beginning, people struggled, but by the end of the five days, everyone had it down pat. That’s when I realized people needed more practice with math.”

Lauren then developed a quiz for newly hired pharmacy technicians to take after they completed their manufacturing training, with a focus on the math involved when adapting recipes. Before being allowed to work on their own, new pharmacy technicians on her team must pass the test, which is meant to sharpen math and critical thinking skills, and promote proper documentation.

“In the system we used to have, technicians would bring up the master recipe and adjust the quantity,” Lauren said. “Sometimes technicians would put in the new quantity and print it, but they wouldn’t hit ‘recalculate.’ The recipe would still have the original amount. Pharmacy technicians should be checking the recipes.”

Since she developed the quiz, three new hires haven taken it—all three scored over 90 per cent. She considers that a successful implementation and gives her confidence that new team members are fully trained.

Lauren also realized this would be an ideal topic for her annual implementation record for her continuing competence portfolio due at the end of November.

“I always struggle with what I can actually implement into my daily routine, because being in an institutional pharmacy, we don’t see patients,” Lauren said. “When I identified our weakness and developed a new test, I thought that was something we will use in the upcoming year.”

The implementation record should document learning you have implemented into your practice, why you chose to implement it, your objective for implementing the learning, and how you implemented your learning.

If you’re struggling to come up with a topic for your implementation record, Lauren provides the following advice: “It’s something you need to put into your practice, so think about the things you do every day, identify weaknesses, and see how you can improve.”

And remember, the continuing education cycle for pharmacy technicians ends on November 30, so be sure to complete and submit your portfolio by then.